Why we need more Women in Recruitment!

From business to politics, more leaders are beginning to wake up to the importance of diversifying their workforces in order to increase the sharing of different ideas, qualities and skills within a collective, as well as promote gender equality in the workplace. But where does recruitment rank in terms of equal opportunities for women in the industry? We investigate!

More needs to be done in promoting gender equality

According to Fiona-McKay, Managing Director of Lightbulb Leadership Solutions, there is still a long ways to go in promoting gender equality within the recruitment sector. “While there have been positive movements, with women making up 26.1 per cent of UK Plc boards in 2016, compared to just 12.5 per cent in 2011, the number of women occupying the top roles in the recruitment sector is still low,” she writes.

While evidence shows that women possess excellent leadership and communication skills, with a study by Westminster Business School even indicating that women are better billers than men, it would appear that women are still largely underrepresented, and receive less recognition for their contribution to the industry. Researchers commissioned by Women in Recruitment found that women are more likely to leave the industry before they move into senior positions. Although women represent 56 percent of all senior positions within the recruitment industry, 77 per cent of board level positions are held by men.

The challenges that women in recruitment face

According to the Westminster Business School study commissioned by Women in Recruitment, women tend to leave the industry before moving into senior positions. Their survey uncovered the challenges that women face within recruitment, and found that:

  • There is a lack of female role models: Only 27 percent of respondents said they had a female role model in the workplace. This ironically correlates with the main point of the survey – if women aren’t getting promoted, how can there be role models for younger or less experienced colleagues to seek to emulate?
  • The sector still retains an ‘old boys club’ culture: A significant 41 percent of respondents stated that the existence of an ‘old boys ethos’ is detrimentally affecting their career prospects, with Boards overwhelmingly made up of men. The research authors stated: ‘While there are good places, there are still pockets of unconstructed male chauvinism’. This can obviously be incredibly alienating to women within the industry who may feel left out or discriminated against, leading to diminished trust in employers and limited career opportunities.
  • Family commitments are a key concern: The greatest reason prohibiting further career progression was, according to 66 percent of respondents, due to family and caring responsibilities. Women often report that taking a career break to raise their children makes it difficult for them when they return to the workplace, with a lack of support on offer by their employers at a level they need to resume what is a high pressured and competitive environment within the recruitment sector.

The way forward

The world is changing and many businesses are recognising the benefits of drawing talent in numbers from 51 percent of the population. However, there is still more that recruitment firms need to do in terms of reforming their culture and creating a more inclusive and equal workforce.

Below are three steps recruitment leaders should take to move forward:

1. Appoint more female role models

Research has shown that women are more inspired by same sex role models succeeding in business, and this is certainly true in recruitment. With more female employees, there should be more women getting promoted, leading to more and more role models for new. According the report by Women in Recruitment, 66 percent of respondents reported that having good mentors would improve staff retention.

2. Improve performance guidance and feedback

Fiona notes that women whether it be praise or developmental, women are more likely to receive an emotive style of feedback unrelated to results in comparison to men, citing two reports by the Clayman Institute for Gender Research and the Centre for the Advancement for Women’s Leadership. Researchers discovered that men – in comparison to women - are offered a clearer picture of the areas in which they are performing well and provided with exact guidance on what they need to do to progress to the next level.

“This vague feedback has a detrimental effect in two very distinct ways: firstly, women were told about their performance in general without finding out which specific actions were either valued or needed improvement, meaning any self-development was heavily compromised. The second, and most saddening, effect was the direct correlation between vague feedback and a low performance review rating. From this, it is clear to see why Correll and Simard concluded that vague feedback was therefore stunting the development of women in business,” says Fiona.

For this reason, people who give performance reviews must possess the ability to communicate the areas in which a recipient excels whilst noting which skills must be improved. Women must be given more targeted and specific actions to achieve, as this will give them a clear pathway on how they can progress their careers.

3. Engage, support and advance

Steps should also be taken to include women in company conversations – communication is key, and ‘old boys clubs’ are such an archaic concept that it’s unsurprising so many industry professionals are finding them problematic. Family commitments will undoubtedly be the most difficult issue to tackle. However, employers should emphasise that the company is always there to listen to any worries they may have if employers have the capacity to utilise flexible working opportunities, they should seriously consider it – 63 percent of respondents believe it would actively encourage women to stay in the profession.

The benefits of a diverse workforce

In addition to enhancing company culture and providing a wide range of perspectives, studies show that businesses with a diverse workforce tend to profit more than their counterparts.

Research by Harvard Business Review reported that Fortune-500 companies with the highest female representation at senior level outperformed those with the fewest by 42 percent. Another report by Grant Thornton showed that publicly listed companies with male-only boards missed out on a £49bn of investment pot each year – the equivalent of around 3 percent GDP.

In conclusion, we need to make a conscious effort to promote gender equality in recruitment - not just for retention, but to strengthen organisations as a whole!

About our contributor

Fiona McKay

Fiona McKay is the Managing Director of Lightbulb Leadership Solutions and the Executive Founder at Fiona-Mckay.Com. She understands leaders and the forces that drive, disrupt and deny greatness, advancing and improving stand-out leaders, able to solve the toughest business challenges, execute complex change and improve results in performance, people & profits. In a results-driven world, she has won international recognition as an executive business mentor, growth partner, conference chair, and keynote speaker as well as leading the expansion of Lightbulb Leadership Solutions into North America and APAC.

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